Before I get into our schedule: we’ve lost a student, and predictably, he was scheduled to participate in the last panel discussion, which only had three people to begin with. I’m looking for a volunteer to take part in that last panel discussion and talk about comic book superheroes for fifty minutes. If nobody volunteers by the time our next class rolls around, one of you will be chosen randomly. (But volunteering will be good for your participation mark.) First person to volunteer gets the job!
EDIT: The empty slot has been filled. No more need for volunteers for our final panel discussion, though if you are dying to talk about superheroes, I will accept one more person for that final panel discussion!
Now, our schedule: Organizing make-up classes for a group of our size is hell, so I’m going to go with the MP3 lecture method. That means we can do two things: cover more material while still allowing class discussion of the lectures and reading material, and cover that material outside class without all having to be together.
In the light of that, Tuesday will be devoted to two things: discussion of the Flapper Lecture I posted, and the lecture on SF and its influence on the Western mind that I’ll post sometime later today.
Tuesday’s class (1 June) will be purely discussion of these lectures. Please listen to them before class, and take notes, and come to class with any questions you might have.
For Thursday, 3 June, we’ll have a panel discussion on the idea of “SF as a foreign language.”
The idea of this discussion is the question of whether SF is specifically, culturally, American — a notion Thomas Disch has argued in parts of his book The Dreams Our Stuff is Made Of. SF is much less popular in Korea than in the Western world, especially the English-speaking world. Are the reasons for this cultural? What cultural differences do we see expressed in the structures, ideology, and discourses that form the basis of American SF? What facets of Invasion of the Body Snatchers are specifically American? How non-American (specifically French) is The Fifth Element? In your own cultures (this discussion this day includes Chinese, Russian, and Korean students — and SF is far more developed and accepted in Russia and China than in Korea, according to scholars), do you feel the local form of SF is influenced by American SF, or developed independently? How different is it from American SF?
On Tuesday, June 8th, we’ll have a discussion for the first hour, regarding another MP3 lecture I’ll be uploading during the week before, dealing with the connection between Hippie and Beat culture, and their place within American culture generally.
The second half of class on June 8th will be another Panel Discussion: Does Korea “Need” a Beat or Hippie Generation?
Commentators on the differences between Korean and American culture sometimes compare Korea to America in the 1950s in terms of the stresses forming between youth culture and “adult” culture, but also because of specific cultural factors present in Korea, and because of an assumption about how cultures change. Commentators who make such comparisons tend to believe that Korea “needs”– for various reasons — to undergo the kinds of changes that occurred in America in the 1950s. This is, of course, a very American perspective, but the questions it raises are interesting: Do cultures, as they modernize, pass through the same kinds of stages? Were the changes that the beats and hippies introduced into American culture wholly positive? Is such a thing as a beat or hippie generation even possible in Korea at the present time? Will such a thing — and such social changes — ever be possible in Korea? Why or why not? And if so, is this a desirable change?
Finally, our last Panel Discussion, on Thursday, 10 June, will be done without a lecture. Instead, I will provide you with some reading that promises to be better than my lecture would be in any case! The title of the Panel Discussion is Heroism and Other Discourses from the World of Comic Books:
The idea of heroism is one which is probably present in some form or other in every society. However, the notion of super-heroism as we see in comics and, increasingly in recent years, in film is somewhat different. While it’s possible to argue that Gilgamesh or Hong Gildong were superhero-like figures — and indeed, a lot of the propaganda in North Korea presents Kim Il-Sung in ways that are strangely similar to superhero comics — the superhero trope is, in some ways, a distinctly American creation. Several changes have occurred in the idea of superheroes, however: one of the most profound is the “secularization” of the superhero. Early on, superheroes normally had super-powers, with Superman being the best — but far from the only — example.
Batman was one of the first superheroes to become vastly popular without super-powers — only gadgets, intelligence, and passion for justice. Now, this kind of superhero is growing more and more popular in the mainstream, from The Watchmen to Iron Man and even Kick-Ass. What tropes, discourses, and anxieties do we see in Superhero narratives of both types, and what do they reveal about American society and culture?